I’m delighted to post this terrific information from Anne Koski, a personal trainer who takes issues with some of WTEWYE’s advice about exercise. Anne’s suggestions really make sense, and answered a lot of questions I’d had about exercise during pregnancy. Enjoy!
WTEWYE: “It appears that women who don’t get any exercise during pregnancy become less fit as the months pass by — mostly because they are becoming heavier and heavier.”
As if we need encouragement to stress out about our bodies’ miraculous yet less appreciated transformations of pregnancy, now it’s suggested that we’re losing fitness because of our pregnancy. Yes, it’s tough to haul around 15-40 pounds of excess body weight, but that doesn’t mean you’re less fit… Unless you’re also practicing less physical activity and exercise than you did pre-pregnancy.
In reality, our bodies need to be trained to comfortably carry additional weight, press through labor and delivery, and experience an efficient recovery thereafter. Doing so requires a sound cardiovascular and muscular system (among many other components). Remember, if you’re new to exercise and your provider says it’s okay to do so during pregnancy, it means that you have the go-ahead begin practicing moderate aerobic and muscular training on most days of the week. Here’s the ‘official’ advice from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp119.cfm
Weight Training. “This type of exercise can increase your muscle tone… but it is important to avoid heavy weights (over 25 pounds), or those that require grunting or breath holding… Use light weights with multiple repetitions instead.”
Ok…. No grunting allowed, ladies! Unfortunately this whole excerpt is a little vague when it needs to specific and the opposite when the latter is warranted. First, ‘muscle tone’ is a mythical term created by infomercial producers; what they should say is that you can gain muscular strength or endurance through regular resistance training.
Second, yes, it is important to avoid lifting heavy weights during pregnancy, but I know plenty of women (pregnant or not) who can do a squat while holding onto more than 25 pounds. Without explaining it, the authors are attempting to help you avoid injuring your joints, which have loosened due to the presence of the pregnancy hormone Relaxin. That said, “heavy”(weights) is a relative term: relative to the individual and to the muscle group used for the exercise.
There’s one excellent way to avoid going to the gym and possibly getting injured by lifting “heavy” weights or achieving zero training benefits from the excessively ‘light weights’ you are goaded into using. I suggest finding a personal trainer who is experienced and educated in training prenatal clients, even if you can only afford a few sessions. With their guidance you can discover the appropriate resistance for yourself and your muscles, so you’ll be able to get stronger safely.
“Work exercise into your schedule….Walk to work, if you can, or park your car or get off the bus or subway a mile or so from your job and walk the rest of the way. Pick a parking spot as far as possible from the market or department store. Or walk an older child to school instead of driving. Climb stairs instead of using elevators or escalators. Spend Saturday afternoon strolling in a favorite museum – you won’t even realize you’ve been walking for an hour or two. ”
The authors mistakenly did something I often overhear being done: they confused the definitions and purposes of exercise and physical activity. Both are important, as both have their own unique benefits. Physical activity counts as anything that gets your body moving, and is an important contributor to your ‘daily burn.’ Exercise is a planned activity, with the purpose of gaining health benefits and improving fitness.
So test yourself. Which activities above are physical activities and which can be considered exercise? Remember that if it’s exercise, it should improve fitness. To improve fitness, you must challenge your cardiovascular and/or muscular system. During pregnancy, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada suggests exercising at an intensity between ‘fairly light’ and ‘hard’ on the perceived exertion scale. 1
The bottom line: WTEWYE is offering some pretty decent advice to women who are beginning an exercise program after pregnancy begins. Just don’t sell yourself short: yeah, we’re not re-living our moms’ pregnancy, not being allowed to carry our own groceries, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and take a brisk walk, and get your heart rate up, enjoy the feeling of your body moving through space. Feels good, doesn’t it!?
Anne Koski is a certified Personal Trainer and Baby Boot Camp Instructor in Portland, Oregon. She has fun running, playing, creating, and growing with her husband and almost two-year-old. Anne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and blogs at www.anneandpaul.blogspot.com
Joint SOGC/CSEP Clinical Practice Guideline. Exercise in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. Retrieved 03/27/10 from: http://www.sogc.org/guidelines/public/129E-JCPG-June2003.pdf